Updated on 10.19.17

19 Things a New Homeowner Should Do Immediately to Save Money

Trent Hamm

couple moving into new house

So you’ve just moved into your nice new home. You’ve unloaded the boxes and started to unpack your life.

Right now is the perfect time to walk through a checklist of ways to save money on your home for years to come.

Starting on these things as early as possible will allow you to start saving money sooner rather than later. Plus, some of them will be easier to accomplish before you hang pictures or get too settled in — and lose your move-in momentum.

Here are 19 things to check or do immediately that will reduce the energy and maintenance costs of your home over the long haul.

19 Things to Do Immediately to Reduce Your Home Energy and Maintenance Costs

1. Check the insulation in your attic – and install more if needed.

If you have an unfinished attic, pop your head up there and take a look around. You should see insulation up there between the beams, and there should be at least six inches of it everywhere (more if you live in the northern part of the United States).

If there’s inadequate insulation up there – or the insulation you have appears to be damaged – install new insulation. Here’s a great guide from the Department of Energy on attic insulation, including specifics on how much you should have depending on where you live. Many states offer financial incentives, up to a 75% refund for instance, to encourage homeowners to better insulate their homes.

2. Lower the temperature on your hot water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius).

This is the optimum temperature for your hot water heater. Most people don’t use water hotter than 120 degrees — indeed, water hotter than that can scald you or a child — and thus the energy needed to keep the water above 120 degrees isn’t used effectively. Lower the temperature, save money on your energy bill, and you’ll never skip a beat.

3. Toss a water heater blanket over that hot water heater as well.

While most modern hot water heaters are well-insulated, some are insulated better than others, and many older heaters aren’t insulated well at all. A small investment in a blanket for your water heater will slowly and gradually save you money on your heating bill over time by keeping the heat in the water instead of letting it disperse slowly into your basement or utility closet.

The Department of Energy recommends being “careful not to cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment.” And of course, on-demand (or “tankless”) water heaters don’t require this treatment.

4. Install ceiling fans in most rooms.

Ceiling fans are a low-energy way to keep air moving in your home. Because of the air circulation effect, you can get away with keeping your thermostat a degree or two higher in summer and a degree or two lower in winter, netting a rather large savings.

A while back, I wrote a guide to maximizing ceiling fan use. The most important thing to know is that the air directly below the fan should be blowing down on you in the summer and should be pulled upwards away from you in the winter — you can use the reversal switch on your fan to switch between the modes at the start of each season.

installing a ceiling fan

Installing ceiling fans to circulate air can save on cooling – and heating – costs. Photo: Ryan Schreiber

5. Wrap exposed water pipes with insulation.

Exposed hot water pipes lose heat as they move water from your heater to your faucet or shower. Wrapping them in pipe insulation, especially in cold basements or garages, can make a two- to four-degree difference in the temperature of the water, and also allows hot water to reach your faucet faster.

Check the pipes into and out of your hot water heater first, as the first three feet out of the heater (and the last few feet of inlet water) are key. Use good-quality pipe insulation for the job, which is actually quite simple — here’s a tutorial.

6. Install a programmable thermostat – and learn how to use it.

A programmable thermostat allows you to schedule automatic increases and decreases in your home’s temperature, saving money on cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

They’re easy to install and easy to use, especially if you keep a fairly routine schedule. Just program the thermostat to drop a few degrees at night while you’re sleeping or off at work during the day, and set it to return to your preferred temperature just before you wake up or return home from work. You won’t notice the difference — until you see your lower utility bill.

7. Replace your air filters.

When you first move in, you almost always need to replace the air handling filter or the filter on your furnace or AC unit. Don’t worry, it’s easy to do – it takes about 10 seconds.

Go down to your air handling unit, find where the filter is (it’s almost always a large rectangle), and mark down the measurements (printed around the edges). Then, go to the hardware store and pick up a few of them. Go home and replace the old one with a new filter, and save the rest so you always have a clean one ready to go. An outdated filter not only doesn’t filter air as well, it also has a negative impact on air flow, meaning your air handling system or HVAC unit has to work harder — and use more energy — to pump out lower quality air.

8. Make sure the vents in all rooms are clear of dust and obstructions.

None of the vents in your home should be covered or blocked by anything – doing that makes your heating and cooling work overtime. You should also peek into all of your vents and make sure they’re as dust-free as possible, and brush them out if you see any dust bunnies. This improves air flow into the room, reducing the amount of blowing that needs to happen.

9. Mark any cracks in the basement with dated masking tape.

Many homes have a few small cracks in their basement walls from the settling of the foundation and the weight of the house. In a stable home, the small cracks aren’t growing at all – they’re safe. If they’re growing, however, you’ll save a ton of money by getting the problem addressed now rather than later.

How do you tell if they’re growing? Take some masking tape and cover up the end of any cracks you notice inside or outside, and write today’s date on the tape. Then, in a few months, check the tape – if you see a crack growing out of the end of the tape, you might have a problem and should call a specialist before the problem gets out of hand.

10. Hang a clothes rack in your laundry room (or better yet, an outdoor clothesline).

Even an efficient clothes dryer can really eat up your energy costs, but it’s convenient for many people. If you’re willing to battle that convenience, you can save money by hanging a clothes rack from the wall in the laundry room and using it for some items; t-shirts, underwear, towels, and pillow cases dry great on clothes racks. If you can hang up 20% of the clothes in a load on a rack, you can get away with running the dryer 20% less than before, saving you cash.

Even better: If you can, install a clothesline in your back yard and hang most of your clothes to dry outside, where a good breeze can do the work of a dryer in no time — and at no cost.

Laundry hanging on clothesline

Even if you only use a clothesline for some of your clothes, it will save you plenty of money over time. Photo: TraciTodd

11. Check all toilets and under-sink plumbing for leaks or constant running – and check faucets, too.

Do a survey of the plumbing in your home before you settle in. If you find a toilet is running constantly, it’s going to cost you money – here’s how to easily fix that constantly-running toilet.

You should also peek under the basin of all the sinks in your home, just to make sure there aren’t any leaks. Got a leaky faucet? You should repair or replace any of those, because the drip-drip-drip of water is also a drip-drip-drip of money; not to mention the terrible interplay between mold and home insurance.

12. Install LED or CFL light bulbs.

LED and CFL bulbs can save you a lot of money on energy use over the long haul, plus they have much longer lives than normal incandescent bulbs, making them well worth the upfront investment. Consider installing some in various places — especially in areas where the lights may be in use for long periods, like the living room or kitchen, or left on accidentally, like a back hallway or basement. CFL bulbs tend to be cheaper, but LED bulbs are usually preferable in terms of performance, and have come down in cost quite a bit over the past few years.

13. Choose energy efficient appliances, even if you have to pay more up front.

Unless you were lucky enough to buy a fully-furnished home, you’ll likely have to do some appliance shopping. Focus on reliability and energy efficiency above all, even if that seriously increases the cost you have to pay up front. A refrigerator that uses little energy and lasts 20 years is far, far cheaper over the long run than a fridge that runs for seven years and guzzles electricity. If you plan ahead, you can buy it with a credit card that offers a big sign-up bonus. You’ll pay the balance off immediately and walk away with hundreds in cash or travel rewards.

14. Set up your home electronics with a SmartStrip or two.

Looking forward to getting your television, cable box, DVD player, sound system, and video game console set up? When you do it, set things up with proper surge protection (to shield your equipment from electric surges). You might also want to consider a SmartStrip, which makes it easy to “unplug” devices that aren’t in use.

SmartStrip allows the on-off status of one device — say, the television — to control whether or not there’s power flowing to other devices (say, the DVD player or the video game console). Having the power cut automatically from such auxiliary devices can save a lot of money over time, especially since many such devices eat quite a bit of power as they sit there in standby mode, constantly draining your money.

15. Plant shade trees near your house.

Mother nature can help you save significantly on your summer cooling costs — and heating costs in winter, too.

Plant deciduous trees — the kind that lose their leaves in the fall — on the western and eastern sides of your house. The leafy shade trees will naturally cool your home during the hot summer months by reducing the amount of direct sunlight that hits your house.

In the winter, they’ll lose their leaves, allowing that same sunlight to stream through your windows and heat up the home a bit more. And if you plant evergreens on the north and northwest sides of your home, they won’t affect the sunlight, but will shield your home from cold winter winds.

As an added benefit, mature trees can increase your property value. Just make sure to plant them a safe distance from power lines and your home itself (no one wants a downed limb poking through their roof). Plant them now, and they’ll grow and shade your house sooner.

16. Change the locks and make spare keys.

One of the first things many homeowners do is change the locks on their new home. You don’t need to be particularly handy to install new door hardware, and a set of basic doorknobs and locks for your front and back door will only set you back $20-$80 or so. It may seem unnecessary, but there’s no way to know whether there are copies of your old key floating around, and who might have them if so. Investing a bit of money and time today can protect you from burglary down the road.

While you’re at it, get an extra copy of your key made and leave it with someone you trust, so you don’t have to shell out $100 to a locksmith when you inevitably lock yourself out.

17. Air-seal your home.

This isn’t such a problem in new homes, some of which are built tight as drums, but in older homes, it’s important to look for any places where air may be leaking directly into or out of your home. Common trouble spots are around doorways, windows, and even electric outlets.

These aren’t just air leaks – they’re money leaks. Thankfully, fixing small air leaks is pretty easy – here’s a great Department of Energy guide to caulking and weatherstripping, which will keep such air leaks from sucking the heat – and money – out of your home.

18. Take advantage of tax benefits and other incentives.

The energy tax credit, which was set to expire in 2014, was renewed at the last minute in December. That means homeowners who made energy-based improvements to their homes last year were eligible to receive a tax credit for 10% of the cost, up to $500 lifetime. Whether this popular credit is renewed for another year, however, is anyone’s guess. A whopping 30% tax credit toward the cost of solar energy systems, residential wind turbines, and geothermal heat pumps is in effect through 2016.

Your state or city may offer even more benefits, from no-interest loans to rebates, so do some research when you invest money improving the efficiency of your home — you may save even more money than you expected.

Many states and local utility companies also provide home energy audits for free or at a discount. Someone will thoroughly inspect your home to find where you’re wasting energy. They’ll look for air leaks and uninsulated pipes, test the efficiency of your heating and cooling equipment, and even replace any older incandescent light bulbs for free.

19. Develop a home maintenance checklist, and run through it for the first time.

One final tip: Create a home maintenance checklist. This list should include regular home maintenance tasks that you’d want to do on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Then, make it a habit to run through the items on this list every so often. Doing so will extend the life of almost everything in your home, saving you buckets of money over time.

Any other tips along these lines from the readers?

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  1. I thought you would add “plant a kitchen garden” as well.

  2. I live in the desert, so these apply there (but may apply elsewhere as well):

    Deploy sunscreens over the outside of your windows to keep the sun where it belongs in the summertime: 90%-blocking on south facing windows, 80%-blocking on the rest. They’ll pay for themselves by the end of the first summer.

    Insulate your garage door: You can at least get R-5 insulation to fit in the garage door panels without a problem.

    Install a security door that also functions as a screen door (remember: it is gorgeous outside for nine months of the year…)

    If there are rooms in your house that you do not regularly use, seal them off in the summer and winter and shut the air vents to those rooms when they are not in use.

  3. That’s a great checklist for things to do immediately after moving in. I shall be bookmarking it so I can read it when I move next time :-) Thanks.

  4. SteveJ says:

    Man I wish I read this a couple months ago. I just added a whole lot of insulation and replaced three windows, only to find that the energy credit was good in 2006, 2007, NOT 2008, and then 2009. And sadly I had to do all that to break even since my electricity seems to go up a couple cents a kwh every year. I’ll just keep reminding myself how much cheaper home ownership has been than renting, at least that works out in my favor.

  5. Lurker Carl says:

    Perform the least expensive ideas first, you’ll get instant return in energy savings. Expensive solutions can wait unless it’s a major deficiency, like missing ceiling insulation.

    When checking for air leaks, look for something beyond the obvious door and window problems. For instance, seal ALL the holes in the ceiling AND basement/crawlspace. This includes every hole between conditioned and unconditioned areas in the house where plumbing and electrical utilities run, conditioned air will freely flow out and draw unconditioned air in.

  6. I am totally doing the masking tape over the cracks trick! I have never thought of that, but it makes so much sense.
    Thanks for a great tip Trent!

  7. Definitely don’t do the outdoor clothesline — the neighbors might look down on you… ;)

  8. Fred says:

    CFL’s are not worth it. I replaced nearly all the light bulbs (20 or so) in my house with CFL’s within the last year. 4 of the CFL’s have already gone bad.

    In addition to paying more per bulb, they have not lasted as long as standard bulbs, are hazardous to the environment, and light color is very inconsistent when replacing (brand A vs. brand B). The energy savings may be there, but I paying more because the failure rate has been horrendous. Hopefully the technology catches up soon.

  9. Nick says:

    If I may add one thing that could save money in the long run. Check out how flood-proof your basement is if you have one. If it’s good to go, then great, but if not, consider flood insurance and shoring things up.

  10. Ryan McLean says:

    These are some great tips. I am not becoming a home owner but I am moving out in about a month (when I get home from my HONEYMOON) and some of these tips will come in really handy…

  11. Dani says:

    These are a bit…specific. I’m not even sure what a utility closet is. ;)

    If your home has radiant heat rather than forced-air, purchase a radiator key and learn how to bleed your radiators. This releases air bubbles from the system, which in turn creates a more efficient heating system, since water carries heat better than air.

  12. Kansas Mom says:

    CFLs should last longer and cost less to use, but they are much more sensitive to being turned on and off; it decreases the life span significantly. If you’re going to be returning to a room in 15 minutes or so, it’s much better to just leave them on. We’ve had much better luck even with turning them on and off. (My kids just cannot leave those lights alone!)

    Home Depot will recycle them for you, presumably safely. I’m sure the other stores will follow suit soon. (If only we could turn them in for a coupon for more…)

  13. I agree with using CFLs. The amount of toxics spewed into the environment while powering a traditional/incandescent light bulb is far worse than what is inside a CFL bulb.

    I did my whole house in CFLs several years ago- every fixture; got the CFLs, discounted, for 75 cents each. I have had only two CFLs die since.

    After replacing all the bulbs with CFLs, my electric _usage_ went down…

  14. Karen says:

    Can a non handy person install a programmable thermostat or should I call a professional? : )

  15. Rebeckah says:

    Thank you for all of these great tips!

  16. steve says:

    Although I stopped using my dryer 2 years ago, and removed it from the house this spring, i’m not a big fan of having my clothesline outdoors. It seems like clothes get rained on a lot, and at night they collect dew and are damp in the morning.

    I will hang them in the sun if I’m going to be home and I’m doing other stuff around the house. In that case, they usually dry within 2-3 hours.

    Generally, though, I hang my clothes inside on lines in my attic, year round including the New England winter.

    If I have a lot of clothes I’ve been known to string a line across an interior room from door hinge to door hinge.

  17. steve says:

    @karen: yes, a nonhandy person can install her own programmable thermostat.

    You just switch the existing thermostat to the “off” setting, then remove it. You will have to disattach the wires from the old thermostat. Make a note to observe which wire goes where on the old thermostat before you remove them. Store it carefully if it’s a mercury-switched one.

    Then you just screw the existing wires from the wall to the new thermostat (it will come with a wiring diagram) , and screw the thermostat to the wall. Put in 2 AA batteries, program it, and turn it to the “heat” setting. You’re done.

    to the poster who said to leave the fluorescents on to preserve their life, I don’t think you should be concerned about that. They are good for some 10,000 starts or something like that.

    Also, some people are under the misconception that fluorescents use a lot of energy to get started, so they leave them on rather than switching them on and off.

    It is no longer true that they use a lot of power to start up. They now use like 15 seconds worth of power to get going, much less than long long ago. So if you’re going to be out of the room for longer than 15 seconds, feel free to switch them off if you’d like to. It will save energy.

  18. steve says:

    to fred, whose CFLS kept dying on him:

    if you have lower than normal voltage in your house, or voltage irregularities, your CFLS will die faster because the voltage regulator in it will have to overwork. You could have this problem and everything else in your house could work fine, because most appliances are not as voltage sensitive as fluorescent bulbs.

    so if you have had several CFLS go out (mine have lasted a good 5 years so far, none have gone bad) I would check the voltage at your fixtures with a voltmeter. The voltage drop could be caused by old or faulty wire connections, or by an inherently bad wire connection scheme.

  19. steve says:

    One other thing that will cause CFLS to go bad is using them in an enclosed fixture. Actually, I’m guessing this is what happened to Fred. I have a bunch in enclosed fixtures, but they don’t last as long as the ones in open or semiopen fixtures do. (Still, they have lasted years–I think maybe Fred got a bum batch at the store).

    heat buildup in the fixture, over time, in combination with cycles of heating and cooling (expansion and contraction), loosens the solder connections on components on the circuit board inside the CFL. Then the CFL fails.

    It’s a common problem with most electronics–that’s one reason why your stereo or computer has an air vent, and,for example–to help keep the heat down and the circuit board connections from loosening prematurely.

  20. Sabrine says:

    Definitely do not lower the temperature on your hot water heater any lower. This would result in the optimum temperature for the legionella bacterium to grow, which causes legionnaires’ disease (pneumonia).

  21. Benjamin says:

    Great List Trent!

    I appreciate all energy saving tips and yours are always some of the best!

    There are so many great new energy efficient technologies that are just now becoming “mainstream”.

    I am particularly passionate about geothermal energy and feel that as the technology gets less expensive to install in homes, we will make significant strides in freeing our dependence on foreign oil. I have linked to one of my best geothermal articles in my name (hope this is ok).

    The technology is still cost prohibitive for most, but I have a feeling in the next 5 years, more and more people will be able to afford it!

  22. LifeSaver says:

    Great article, I have tried replacing dryer with cloth line and switching to energy saving bulbs. you can save tons on energy just with these two simple replacements, I also found attic insulation very helpful.

  23. infromsea says:

    Be careful with the water heater blanket.

    I replaced my water heater about two years ago and the directions were very specific about NOT using a blanket.

    If you can find your instructions you should review them before slapping one on.

    If your water heater is “compatible” then they are great buys, just be careful not to cover up any vents where air flows to the pilot light (gas heaters).


  24. Sarah H. says:

    Wonderful set of money-saving tips! I’m glad you mentioned #14…my husband occasionally uses a power meter to check power usage of devices while they are off and he discovered, for example, that our TV OFF uses more power than our treadmill ON (while it’s on a slow speed). So now we have everything attached to strips that we turn off when we aren’t using the devices. It’s easy to neglect the little savings, but they do add up! Tip #2 is also great…we did this a couple of years ago and it has made a difference.

  25. Karen says:

    @Steve-Thank you!

  26. moneyclip says:

    All great tips for new homeowners. Another great tip would be to get out and meet your neighbors, get involved with the neighborhood watch or other similar groups. This might not sound like a money saving tip, but if your neighbors are vigilant and are able to prevent a break in, stop one in progress, that not only may save you some money it may also save your life.

    A more traditional route to saving money that wasn’t mentioned was closing off unused rooms/closets or spaces so that heating and cooling aren’t wasted on these areas. I’ve visited several homes and seen this applied. One lady I know put a huge drape over the foyer of her home. This helped reduce drafts from overpowering the interior of her home.

    Another, though this may sound cheap, was my grandmother. She lined used doors with plastic and tape to seal those rooms off completely from the rest of her home. She also sealed off the vents servicing those rooms and any external windows and doors as well.

  27. Chris says:

    The water heater wraps are for electric water heaters only. They do not help gas water heaters.

  28. A drying rack can also be placed outside to catch the wind. I often take mine outside and set them in the sunniest place(and that’s an advantage over a clothesline, which can’t be moved).

  29. cv says:

    A question for some of the people who have left comments about sealing off unused rooms – why would people buy a home and move in knowing they won’t use some of the rooms? I know a lot of empty-nesters have little-used rooms, but people who just moved in? I would think that the best tip for these people would come before they become new homeowners – buy a smaller house!

  30. Hunyhare says:

    What about those of us that are renting apartments? I switched out all the incandescent bulbs to CFL’s as soon as I moved in, drained the hot water heater and put a blanket around it and I make it a practice to turn off or unplug everything possible when I’m not at home. I don’t have the option of erecting a clothesline or of putting in a programmable thermostat (I checked with the manager about the thermostat). So what are some other things I can do to reduce my electrical consumption?

  31. Kevin says:

    Another note on programmable thermostats – when you go to replace it, have a piece of duct tape or electrical tape ready. When you disconnect all the wires from the old thermostat, tape the wire to the wall until you have it connected to the new one. This well keep the wire from falling into the wall. I’ve not had it happen to me, but I can only imagine it is a pain in the you-know-what to fish it out.

  32. Bill in NC says:

    Learn how to swap parts yourself instead of paying someone else merely to swap parts.

    E.g. toilets – replace flapper, replace fill mechanism, and replace water inlet line from the wall to the fill mechanism are all the toilet repairs I’ve had to do in the last 20 years.

    Similarly, I’ve replaced a dozen stem valves in all my sinks with nothing more than an adjustable wrench and some “PB Blaster”

  33. At a temperature of 120F, according to the Wikipedia article on Legionellosis, your water temperature would not be high enough to kill Legionella bacteria. That won’t affect most people If your area is at risk from that (in jurisdictions where water isn’t chlorinated), you’ll want to have your temperature higher.

  34. Shevy says:

    As to why one would buy a house with “too many” rooms, here are 2 suggestions. 1) You’re having a baby in 7.5 months but don’t need the nursery over the winter before the baby is born. 2) You have family members (i.e. parents) who live far away and come infrequently but for longer visits and they need a place to sleep at your house that isn’t in your living room. You can shut the room off until a day or so before they arrive for a visit.

    Trent, I really liked idea 11. Most of the other ideas are frequently suggested but this one was new to me. Marking the ends of the cracks is really clever.

    As for 16, planting shade trees, there are a couple of cautions. Know how high the trees will grow when they’re mature and what the spread of both their branches and roots is likely to be. That way you won’t plant them too close to the house where they’ll block your windows or hang over your gutters and clog them, or interfere with your drainage or water main (I once had an oak tree that was determined to grow right under the living room window and right beside the water main, eventually necessitating a visit from a guy with a Bobcat to dig up the front yard and a guy to fix the leak in the basement, sigh).

    The other thing to watch for is power lines. My neighbours were just telling me the other night about the lovely little spruce they had out front a few years ago that the power company kept hacking pieces out of to keep the power line clear. Finally, it was such a mess that they just told the trimmers to take the whole tree.

    Finally, when you plant trees be sure you water them sufficiently so they don’t die (a huge waste of money). The City attaches tags to the trees they plant curbside, telling the homeowner to give them a full bucket of water at a specified interval (I think weekly).

  35. TParkerson says:

    Thanks for the post Trent…I suppose there are still people out there buying houses! Good to know that not every market is in the toilet!

    One thing I would like to add… October is Fire Prevention month, and though it may not save you any money (seemingly), you should check your smoke detectors. There should be at least one on every floor of your home, and one near all the bedrooms. These handy little gizmos are so cheap and easy to install…definitely worth their weight in gold!

    If your home already has them, change the batteries in them and get into the habit of changing your batteries when you change your clocks! If your detectors are “hard-wired” into your home electrical system, it is a good idea to install some with battery back-up. Fires do occur when the power is out and the ones wired to your home go “bad” all the time.

    If you use carbon based fuels to heat (wood, coal, or gas/oil) make sure that you have at least one combo detector that will alert you to both smoke and carbon monoxide. Carbon Monoxide is called silent killer because it is odorless and will cause you and your family to suffocate, especially if you have done a good job closing up air leaks in you home.

    Have a fire extinguisher or 2 in the house and know how to use them!

    Practice your escape plan. Get your family out and stay out! Have a meeting place that is known to all family members.

    I would invite you all to spend some time at your local fire station…they will be happy to give you a tour and talk to you about these and other life-saving ideas!

    Hope everyone has a great day! Time’

  36. f1owerprincess says:

    Thanks Trent! I just purchased a house and have been in it 3 weeks. This is helpful.

    Thanks, too, to Wonko. I live in the desert and it gets up to 120 in summer, so I can always use tips like that.

    As to buying a house that has “too many” rooms, I live alone and bought a 1787 sq. ft. house. It has a 3 bedrooms, a den and a giant living room. One of the bedrooms is mine, of course, and the other is for my parents, who live out of town but come to my area frequently. Also, I plan to live in this house for a very long time and this house has a lot of room for me to grow into.

    To anyone moving into a house with a HOA, remember to get a copy of your CC&Rs. My realtor did not give me a good time about that, but found an older copy somewhere to finally give me. It turns out that there isn’t anything big in mine, just keep your yard neat and other normal little things, but I wouldn’t have known that I have to submit a written plan to redo my front yard, which is dead, if I didn’t have it.
    Note: I wouldn’t have bought a house with a HOA, but the neighborhood is quiet and the house and yard were so perfectly what I was hoping to find!

  37. Paul says:

    I’ll echo the caution about the water heater temperature – 120 is in the range where Legionella will happily grow. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still do this, so long as you remember once per month to turn the temperature up to 140-150 for several hours. A good time to do this might be when you run a hot wash through your washing machine to clear out all the nastiness that a month of operating at efficient lower temps can leave behind – see, you just got a bonus tip!

  38. Mike says:

    In Rhode Island you can get an energy audit at no cost. It’s paid for with a tax on energy. You’ll get some free CFLs and have an expert opinion on what options will save you the most money. Also, you can have your fridge tested to see if you qualify for a rebate on an Energy Star model. Customers of National Grid, Natural Gas, can save 50% on certain services, such as air sealing, and insulation. Call RISE Engineering, the firm which does the Energy Audits.

    Please note, I am not affiliated with RISE Engineering. They are the company which has been contracted to perform the audits.

  39. Jim @ Getting Ahead in Life says:

    Be careful of #3. Wrapping some hot water heaters may void your warranty. I have a high efficiency hot water heater and when I asked the factory rep (A cousin) about it. He said it already was insulated. The additional insulation would be of minimal help and if the factory found out they would void the warranty.

    With that said, if your hot water heater is not a high efficiency model and is more than a few years old this is a great energy saving idea. If it is more than 10 years old consider replacing it with a high efficiency model on your time schedule., not when it blows a hole at 3 am and you have to make a rush decision.

  40. Brent says:

    Very good list! Its important to remember every house has a different priority payback list. Generally weather sealing the thermal envelope is a good payback cause it works during the most expensive times of the year, heating and cooling. We started a small business here in Cincinnati, Ohio that provides thermal imaging to homeowners. We keep it very simple to help people see where their envelope is leaking. You can see some of the images we’ve found in homes on our site at energyque.com

  41. drdrew says:

    I think this should be right there with CFLs…

    Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators. Less water used mean less energy used to heat it; hence, money saved. And this doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice pressure or cut your shower time in half! The newer heads *may* actually increase your pressure a bit. And since you’re reducing your usage from say: 4 gpm to 2 gmp you just saved 50% regardless of your time.

    Bonus: Those of us with wells will not have our pump coming on nearly as often either! More savings!

  42. J says:

    One of the suggestions is to fix leaking faucets immediately. I recently sent my husband out to get a replacement part for a leaking faucet. The part cost approximately $17. My monthly water bill averages half that. So, while I hate to waste water and the dripping was driving me crazy, I find it hard to believe that it was a significant money savings. It will take months of saved water usage to pay for the replacement part.

  43. @Hunyhare: Replacing the air filter still applies in an apartment (something I never did).

    Also, putting up insulating window film in the winter helps, and it’s not permanent, so it’s perfectly safe to do. It’ll cost less than $10 to do. Savings varies depending on how good or bad your windows are, but at the very least, your apartment will be more comfortable. I’m pretty confident the $10 investment will save you about $30.

    Programmable thermostats are easy to change back out, so I would suggest asking your landlord’s permission to install one because they make a huge difference, especially in combination with these other tips.

    Regarding CFLs: I have some that have lasted 5+ years and I had others fail very quickly. Now when I buy them, I save the packaging and the receipt and write the date of purchase in pencil on the plastic base of the bulb. In the future, if bulbs fail, I can quickly learn if it was premature, and if it is, file a warranty claim since I still have proof of purchase and the address.

  44. jpb says:

    Get into the habit of checking your smoke detectors every time daylight savings starts/stops. You have to wander around the house resetting the clocks anyway, and it’s a good idea to check on the batteries every six months.

  45. femmeknitzi says:

    Great tips! I just bought in April so I will definitely go through this list. I’m ashamed to say that I have NOT yet learned to use my programmable thermostat.

    I would point out that if you’re going to plant shade trees around your house, be purposeful about it. If you have a small property like mine, you may have to choose between shading your home and keeping a sunny spot for growing vegetables. I save a ton of money growing my own veggies and I’d rather not give up my sunny yard.

    They ain’t trendy but awnings or heavy curtains can accomplish the same goal and still leave you with plenty of growing space.

  46. michael says:

    I have a workout room in my house with its own AC, so it is permanently sealed off from the rest of the house’s heating/AC. I only need it a few hours per week. It also doubles as a storage area (it’s an old house — not much closet space), including a large freezer which saves me a fortune because I can buy in bulk.

    Also, guest rooms are not uncommon for folks with large families or social networks.

  47. Quinn says:

    Get a thankless water heater

  48. Ryan G says:

    An equivalent for the UK would be great.

  49. Anjanette says:

    bookmarking this for later!

  50. Stephen Bird says:

    Don’t seal up your home entirely as earlier advised! If your home is like the interior of a sealed glass jar, you’ll have problems with ventilation and condensation not to mention the resulting mould. 20% of the air inside should be recirculated with fresh air every hour. To accomplish this without causing draughts and cold spots requires some planning and expert advice.

  51. Michael Thomas says:

    Re: Retro-fit insulation blankets for water heaters, perhaps not a good idea, they may *increase* energy use see:


  52. Amanda says:

    I totally agree with the ceiling fans and shade trees. Living in Texas, these are 2 things to live by in the spring and summer!

    To expand on 13 and 18: Another idea for home appliances…especially if you can’t afford to purchase new ones yet…check out some of the warranty plans that allow you to bundle appliances under one plan for a low monthly fee. This can help reduce repair costs in the future and if one of your major appliances goes out, like your dryer, you can get a replacement! I’m an advocate for http://www.allsixwarranty.com, you can bundle six appliances no matter how old or new they are. You can also get maintenance tips on this website too that will help with those pre-emptive maintenance measures!

  53. victor says:

    the tip about the water heater blanket is a bad idea. it will cause most water heaters to sweat and ruin the insulation inside the heater lessening the life of the water heater in the long run. let alone your floor bubbling up from being wet.

  54. Homemaker says:

    Checking any leaks on the toilet will sure save a lot of money…i have one for a year and the savings I got on my water bill was tremendous.. less than 50% off my previous bill..

  55. Jennifer Crawford says:

    We just purchased our first home and needed help with home insurance. We found the Safeco website and it was very informative and purchasing the policy was easy. Here is some more information.


  56. TomK says:

    Every new homeowner should read this article. Without a good educational foundation, new homeowners can easily run into costly but preventative problems.
    Here is a source that can help one keep track of doing many of these things. Lets you know exactly when you did it last and when it’s due again. Good educational and motivational tool. http://www.myhomechannel.org

  57. deRuiter says:

    Great post even for those of us in our houses for a long time, there’s always something which could be improved! I swear by air drying clothes. Check the weather report the night before, and if next day will be sunny, put on a load of laundry before you go to bed, next morning you get up a few minutes early, and hang the clothing. We don’t even bother with a line because we’re not a big family. Laundry’s draped over the terrace furniture on the south side of the house, it’s screened from the street by a hedge, and from the neighbors by a barn. Whoever passes the laundry turns the heavy stuff over to insure equal exposure to sun and a quick dry. We have old fashioned cast iron radiators so at the end of the day any heavy towels or jeans which aren’t quite dry because days are now shorter and cooloer are popped on the radiators for a bit. The heat disapates wht moisture into the atmosphere and finishes drying so the items may be folded and put away. The clothes dryer uses an enormous amount of expensive energy, and it beats up the clothing and shortens its life. Dryer “fluff” is the outer surface of your clothese being worn away during the drying cycle, so you lose money paying to have your clothing’s life shortened. Better for the environment is generally cheaper, not always, but most times! In the news recently there’s some information about certain communities which banned clothes lines now rethinking those bans due to environmental concerns. Line drying clothes = money and environmental savings, not poverty!

  58. Don’t forget about the outside! Make an assessment of the outside and consider getting a landscape design plan so that you don’t keep making mistakes. Spending a bit of money on this will give you a road map to follow so you will know what to do as time and money permits.

    Make a list of your “wishes”. To get your ideas going, take a look at some of these award winning
    landscaping pictures.

  59. Rusty Regan says:

    My wonderful husband just put up cloths line for me as I am trying to stop using my clothes dryer so much for environmental reasons, anyway, hung loads of whites on new line, went to check them few hours later and found the lot on the ground. He forgot to mention that he did not put line base in concrete :( had to redo the lot.

  60. Seen a lot of this before, but there are a couple new ones to me.

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